MusicRowPics: Bluegrass Master Ron Block Debuts Solo Instrumental Project

Ron Block

Ron Block

Banjo and guitar maestro Ron Block showcased songs from his first instrumental bluegrass project, Hogan’s House of Music, during a visit to the MusicRow offices.

The 16-track collection includes collaborations with numerous top shelf musicians including his Union Station bandmates Barry Bales, Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, and Jerry Douglas, along with Stuart Duncan, Sierra Hull, Adam Steffey, Sam Bush, Tim Crouch, Rob Ickes, Clay Hess, Mark Fain, Byron House, Lynn Williams, and Jeff Taylor.

In addition to original compositions, the project includes fresh remakes of bluegrass classics including the Stanley Brothers’ “Clinch Mountain Backstep,” Flatt and Scruggs’ “Lonesome Road Blues,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Seneca Square Dance.”

“It starts with listening,” he said of creating original instrumentals. “For one song, I listened to a lot of old Carter family stuff, because I wanted a certain feel for the song. You start off with a general idea, and as things start to get more specific, you follow a certain trail and begin to carve away what isn’t the tune.”

At 13, Block became immersed in traditional bluegrass for about five years. At age 18, he fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll while working at his father’s record store, which led to the purchase of a Les Paul. Those rock influences showed during a live performance of “Clinch Mountain Backstep,” as he noted that he will sometimes play the banjo frets similar to a rock guitar manner, and oftentimes employs a fingerpicking style on electric guitar.

“We’ve all played that Ralph Stanley tune a million times with other people,” said Sierra Hull, who accompanied Block during the performance. “It’s part of that common body of knowledge that all bluegrass musicians have,” she said of improvising melodies for the project. “So when he brings an original song, it’s still within the vein of a familiar bluegrass style, that we kind of speak that language, so he can trust that the musicians he’s hired can play melodies over that particular set of chord changes.”

During his career, Block has collected 14 Grammys, multiple IBMA Awards, a CMA Award, and a Dove Award.

Hogan’s House of Music was produced by Block and recorded at Southern Ground Studios in Nashville. It is available on iTunes, amazon.com, and ronblock.com.

MusicRow staffers welcome Ron Block.

MusicRow staffers welcome Ron Block.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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